Opinion: Occupy Colleges movement sweeps nation's universities

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“If you don’t have a job, and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”

These not-so-encouraging words came from the mouth of Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain in response to the current Occupy Wall Street movement going on across the country and beyond. Although I find it hard to believe that Herman Cain spent his college years fantasizing about becoming a glorified pizza boy, many college students are having a difficult time daydreaming about becoming anything at all.

Occupy Colleges is a grassroots movement that began two weeks ago in congruence with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The movement began on Facebook and Twitter with college students across the country making strides to promote change through nationwide walkouts and protests. Over 150 colleges and universities are now on board in a fight against increasing costs of education, increasing student debt, and the failing job market.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the average college student will owe approximately $24,000 after graduation, a number which is clearly less than the average student will owe after receiving a diploma from TCU. The United States is also at its highest student loan default in a decade. With odds like this, graduating from college and entering the real world can seem very discouraging and undesirable.

This problem is neither new, nor is it some sort of pandemic that came out of thin air. It was quite obvious which direction our economy is heading, and the government has not done much in an attempt to stop it. The real problem is that Congress does not pay nearly enough attention to higher education, and puts too much focus on catering to the Tea Party’s agenda and national debt and not enough on the problems facing the future of their country. College students feel ignored and left out to dry by the very country that they are a part of. If Congress backed programs that allowed students to deleverage at significantly lower rates and even forgive the debt in the event that the job market remains exactly where it is now, young adults would feel less pressure when they reach the 6 month mark after graduation and have to begin paying back loans. Also, anytime that tax reform is the topic of discussion, higher education and financial aid should be included in the conversation. If energy producers and agriculture receive tax breaks, financial aid should as well.

Students know what they are getting themselves into when deciding which school to attend, and I understand students should take responsibility before applying to an extremely expensive school and taking out a large number of student loans. But as young innovators, thinkers and future contributors to our society, we should not feel as though we have to lower standards in regards to our education because our country may not have our back. There is no excuse for anyone to feel detoured from his or her full potential because of the fear of coming out with nothing in the end. Education is supposed to be the great equalizer, the one concept that gives anyone the ability to go anywhere and do anything.

The Occupy Colleges movement may not be supported by all Americans, but I can only hope that the efforts of college students across the nation will bring about the hope that so many have lost. The only circumstance that one should “blame themselves” for is not going out and getting the education they are entitled to.

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